Developing collaborative leadership styles

With a national election for a new Australian government taking place in less than a weeks’ time, it raises key questions around the impact of autocratic, competitive and collaborative leadership styles. Causing many voters, like myself, to question as to what leadership style might be best for our country’s future? Is it a leader who seemingly operates from an “I” or a singular perspective, or is it a collaborative leadership style, that operates from “we” or from a team perspective? Whilst political polices may vary, or not, how important is it for voters to support what appears to be an inclusive leadership style and a cohesive team, or is it about “being the shouty guy” leading a disparate group of autocratic and competitive individuals, appearing to work together?

Is it merely a question of values, is it about questioning the role and importance of innovation and modernity, and how does it relate to leading people in the imagination age? Also, in times of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, are we required to make similar observations and powerful decisions about the range of leadership styles currently demonstrated in many of our organisations? By chairpersons, boards, and CEO’s, also operating from an individual and singular “I” centred leadership style, or by those willing to take responsibility and unite toward a common cause,  demonstrating an inclusive and collaborative “we” centred leadership style. Perhaps motivated to impact positively and contribute to the future of humanity and common good in a VUCA world?

Shifting from the singular to the plural – from I to we

Shifting from the singular to the plural – from an “I” to “we” and “us” collaborative leadership style is more likely to drive inclusion, responsibility, and accountability, for the results they deliver, if it is in government or in organisations. Whether the goal is to get people to work together across internal boundaries or silos or to create high performing cohesive teams, and seamless, collaborative operating organisational cultures. It involves giving people the time and space, skills and techniques, to deeply connect and collectively make effective internal decisions, reduce costs and improve efficiencies, to co-create valuable products and services that customers value and cherish.  It also requires a trustworthy and dependable leadership style that establishes clarity and meaning, so that people are non-defensive and feel safe enough to take smart risks because leaders have their back.

The outcome is an environment where people develop rapid and unstructured interactions between the different groups within the organisation, and where competitive behaviour is discouraged and collaborative behaviours are rewarded.

At ImagineNation, our research reveals that creating collaborative organisational cultures that cultivate these attributes involves developing:

  • An agreed clarity of purpose for working together, even if it is a short-term project, across divisions, departments, technologies, and demographics, that really makes a difference to the organization or institution.
  • A set of simple clear goals and role clarity.
  • Trust and mutual respect for what everyone uniquely brings to the table.
  • A willingness to develop simple, agile processes that involve taking risks, creatively solving problems and making fast and effective decisions.
  • Permission to freely share ideas, wisdom, knowledge, information, resources, and perspectives.

Finally, it involves creating psychological safety within the organisational culture, where cohesive teams and individuals have permission to constructively disagree, to use difference, discord, dissonance and conflict to build on, rather than oppose, each other’s contribution towards generating creative ideas and innovative solutions.

“Executives underestimate not only the inevitability of conflict but also—and this is key—its importance to the organization. The disagreements sparked by differences in perspective, competencies, access to information, and strategic focus within a company actually generate much of the value that can come from collaboration across organizational boundaries. Clashes between parties are the crucibles in which creative solutions are developed and wise trade-offs among competing objectives are made. So instead of trying simply to reduce disagreements, senior executives need to embrace conflict and, just as important, institutionalize mechanisms for managing it”.

Thinking, talking and acting differently – from directing to coaching

It’s time for leaders, whether in organisations or institutions to be willing to think, talk and act differently, in creating the future. To embrace a collaborative leadership style that intentionally shines the spotlight on the well-being others (and the organisation or nation), whilst staying in the shadows themselves.

This can be achieved through effective executive coaching involving feedback and guidance in developing the mindsets, behaviours, and skills involved in facilitating creative collaboration conversations:

According to Adam Grant: “Coaching is in vogue: it used to be just athletes and entertainers who had coaches, but now we have leaders taking on executive coaches and employees learning from speaking coaches. The reality, though, is that a formal coach will only see a fraction of the moments where you could benefit from feedback and guidance. It’s up to all of us to coach our employees, our colleagues, and even sometimes our bosses”.

A new world of conscious, creative and commercial possibilities

Leaders who skilfully and artfully engage their people and cohesive teams in creative collaboration conversations enable them to shift out of their business as usual conventional ways of being, thinking, talking and acting.

It empowers them to step over the threshold that opens up a new world of conscious, creative and commercial possibilities and:

  • Creates containers and holding spaces in which individuals, teams, organisations and eco-systems can function and grow.
  • Taps into the wider collective intelligence (and genius) that emerges and cultivates modern, innovative organizations, leaders and teams.
  • Supports people and teams to connect, explore, see and solve problems in modern and innovative ways that people value and cherish.

Taking the first steps towards facilitating creative collaborative conversations

  1. Build your own and your people’s generative discovery skill-sets

Start by building a common understanding, structured method and language for managing conflict and constructive disagreement by teaching and coaching people how to be present and confident, in how to listen, talk, inquire and debate collaboratively, from “we” and “us” and from a “what best for the business/nation/customer” perspective.

  1. Provide people with structured common methods

Develop agreed and structured decision making and solving problems methods, coach people to apply them on the job, and make them part of the day to day business activities.

  1. Enable and empower people to flow with, and learn from conflict, volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity

Embrace the new world of “business as unusual” by acknowledging, safely exposing and working with people’s fears and concerns for the future. Coach people and cohesive teams to be empathic and adaptive, help them to learn from conflict and disputes, by positioning these as valuable resources for arguable change.

Moving beyond collaboration between people

Whilst it is crucial to focus on harnessing your collective genius and on bringing out the best in others, this is just the beginning of the new modern era of business, politics and institutional change.

Because collaboration between people is just the beginning and is the basic foundation for creating a future where humans and machines work alongside each other, making each other smarter, to contribute towards a more sustainable future, the common good and the future of humanity.

As researched by PWC:

“The key to making that work is to embrace collaboration at all levels: internally, externally, and with technology itself. Collaboration is more than technological tools. It’s more than a cultural willingness to work together to come up with new ideas. You need both. And when you combine them, you unlock tremendous power. Now is the time to start turning that key”.

Find out about The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate & deep personalized learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 8-weeks, starting October 22, 2019. It is a deep blended learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles & applications of a human-centered approach to innovation, within your unique context. Find out more.

Contact us now at to find out how we can partner with you to learn, adapt and grow your business in the digital age.